In Paraguay, sharing the national drink tereré is not just a thirst quencher. It is a social and cultural experience. Tereré is also seen as medicine. While the thermo is often used as a fashion statement. In the capital Asunción, everybody drink tereré. Independent of if you are a poor or rich man.
In the parks of Asunción, you will observe people sitting enjoying their tereré. Often for hours. Someone alone. But most sharing with friends of families. They sit in a circle, and the youngest person of the group is usually the server. Everyone in the circle uses the same bombilla (a metal straw), but each person finishes a cupful of the tea. This will say, sharing the tools but not the liquid.
Saying gracias (thank you) means that you are done and would not like to be served again. So a thank you should wait until you are really finished. The bombilla should not be moved, as it is carefully placed to keep the tereré from being too bitter. Swirling it around will therefore ruin the drink.
The infusion is prepared by pouring dry yerba into the cup, and then adding water. The hot water version is known as mate, and is preferred in Argentina and Uruguay. While the cold water version is known as tereré and is a local favorite of the Paraguayans.
It is believed that the tereré have many health benefits. It is high antioxidants and has been associated with the prevention of cancer. When sitting in the park enjoying this local drink, you with witness many Paraguayans stopping by, asking for specific herbs to be put in their tereré, because they are or are about to be sick. Around noon, it is crowded of people, due to that the shops are closed for the siesta and people meet for drinking tereré with friends and family.
The taste is best described as earthy. Like a bitter green tea. It therefore take some time getting used to the taste before you start enjoy it.
In Asunción, the thermos are fashion statements. Often, each thermo is personalized with different colors, materials, embroidered designs, sports team logos and monograms of the owner’s name. You can see all type of Paraguayan, from construction workers to business executives, carrying their tereré set during all times.